Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Controversial Electoral College



When it comes to electing a new president of the United States, one would imagine that it is the people of the country who choose the new official. Some may say that their vote really counts, but exactly how true is that belief? The Electoral College system is something most people have heard of but don’t really know that much about. To sum it up quickly in laymen’s terms, it takes the vote out of the hands of the people and gives it to the states.
According to the Constitution, the people are empowered to make a choice through popular election of the people who represent them in the US congress and their state legislatures. By doing so, the Electoral College is created and its members are the ones who choose the next president.
This doesn’t mean that your voice means nothing. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have any say in the presidential elections. The representatives of states in the Electoral College are supposed to vote the way the people of their state vote. This may not seem fair to some but when you are working with hundreds of millions of people, there needs to be some organization.
If the popular vote was all that mattered and was all that was necessary to elect a new president into the White House, eleven states could ultimately decide the new president and then thirty-nine other states would cry foul. I don’t necessarily agree with how the system works, but I do agree there should be some order. And this is the United States of America, not just America.
The only way that the Electoral College could be modified or done away with completely would be through a constitutional amendment. I believe the only way that something like this could happen would be if a president won the Electoral College vote while losing the popular vote. That has happened three times in history: in 1876 with Rutherford B. Hayes, shortly after in 1888 with Benjamin Harrison, and most recently in 2000 with George W. Bush. People were furious when Bush beat Al Gore and the eight years that followed were a disaster, leaving it clear in people’s minds that the Electoral College system is rather shady.
I’d be willing to bet that this year would be a lot different. Barack Obama is on his way to becoming our next president. He will win the popular vote and is looking very good in the Electoral College. With the lowest approval rating in history going to Bush right now, you can bet your bottom dollar that if McCain is elected without the popular vote this year, the United States of America will go up in smoke. I think there would be a call or two for some constitutional amending to be going on. There are too many people who care about this country too much to let the Bush Administration live on vicariously through the McCain Administration (just typing those words gave me the chills).
There are numerous arguments against the Electoral College. The most frequent of those arguments would be the chance of a president to be elected who didn’t win the popular vote. After asking around I found that people were also concerned with the Electoral College system because it may not accurately portray the true feelings of the population and so, the country. I’m sure sore as can be when watching McCain and Palin rallies and seeing all the hate and bigotry taking place. I surely don’t want to be cast alongside those hate-mongers if McCain wins the election. Because everybody knows the world will see us all like that if this country can’t change course and head in a new direction with Obama.
Barring that hypothetical scenario with McCain losing the popular but winning the presidency, the Electoral College isn’t the worst thing out there. There are very few positives about the way it works. A few examples of this would be how it improves the status of minority interests and it upholds a system of government and representation. However, I believe the system is flawed.
There is always a time for change. Now is the time, finally. The country is demanding change like crazy, be it from both sides of the aisle. Who is more honest and better qualified to lead us through that change? I believe the country, people and states alike, will make the right decision. I sure hope they will. And if for some horrible reason things go wrong and the popular vote goes to Obama while the Electoral goes to McCain, the only change people will be looking for (besides other countries to live in) will be a change to the system and an amendment to the Constitution.

4 comments:

S said...

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.


The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

S said...

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that needs to be changed in order to have a national popular vote for President. The winner-take-all rule (awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes inside the state) is not in the U.S. Constitution. It is strictly a matter of state law. The winner-take-all rule was not the choice of the Founding Fathers, as indicated by the fact that the winner-take-all rule was used by only 3 states in the nation's first presidential election in 1789. The fact that Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district is another reminder that the Constitution left the matter of awarding electoral votes to the states. All the U.S. Constitution says is "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the states over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive." A federal constitutional amendment is not needed to change state laws.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

S said...

Quoting Laura Kirshner of Washington, DC

. . . The NAACP voted recently to endorse a national popular vote for president. Here's why:
The influence of minority voters has decreased tremendously as the number of battleground states dwindles. In 1976, 73% of blacks lived in battleground states. In 2004, that proportion fell to a mere 17%.

Battleground states are the only states that matter in presidential elections. Campaigns are tailored to address the issues that matter to voters in these states.
Safe red and blue states are considered a waste of time, money and energy to candidates. These "spectator" states receive no campaign attention, visits or ads. Their concerns are utterly ignored.

Clearly, minorities should not and do not oppose the abolition of the Electoral College

S said...

Under the National Popular Vote, a candidate would win the Presidency if all of the voters in the 11 most populous states that contain 56% of the population of the U.S. voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

Of course, the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely act in concert on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five “red” states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
● Texas (62% Republican),
● New York (59% Democratic),
● Georgia (58% Republican),
● North Carolina (56% Republican),
● Illinois (55% Democratic),
● California (55% Democratic), and
● New Jersey (53% Democratic).

In addition, the margins generated by the nation’s largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
● Texas — 1,691,267 Republican
● New York — 1,192,436 Democratic
● Georgia — 544,634 Republican
● North Carolina — 426,778 Republican
● Illinois — 513,342 Democratic
● California — 1,023,560 Democratic
● New Jersey — 211,826 Democratic

see http://www.NationalPopularVote.com